Are we seeing the stirrings of a refreshing new direction for the carnival show that has been the 2020 Democratic presidential contest? Friends and former staffers of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have urged the shamelessly opportunistic princess of pander to wrap up her flailing campaign. Well now it seems Sen. Gillibrand has taken that to heart, as she is now officially out of the race.
“I don’t know that anyone even wants to see her on the debate stage. Everyone I have talked to finds her performative and obnoxious,” an ex-senior staffer for the Empire State senator bluntly told the New York Post. This telling statement shows that even Democrats are sick to death of the stale shenanigans of the multiple candidates who have attempted to treat the 2020 primary battle as a bad summer-filler reality TV show – and even though Gillibrand has bowed out, she was far from the only bad actor.
Bad Actors Begone
The remarks also easily apply to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and his shallow turn as coyote escorting illegal aliens over our southern border. Beto O’Rourke speaking in Spanish and constantly calling out white supremacy seems to have completely run its course. And Julian Castro’s one-trick, race-baiting candidacy will be best remembered for his twin brother’s posting of a public shaming list of his own constituents who financially supported President Trump. That Julian’s campaign fully defended Joaquin’s shocking actions marked the death knell for any possibility that he would be taken seriously by the vast majority of Americans.
So what does it all mean moving forward? Are Dems truly ready to pull the plug on the clearly flopping performance theater that has turned off so much of the country and get down to focusing on real issues of substantial concern to the citizens of this nation?
If the answer is yes, it will work to the advantage of two top-tier candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) both work best when they are discussing policy, not trying to come off as “human” or “entertaining.” The negatives the two New Englanders bring to the table – most notably, the harshness of their personas and the dreaded likability factor – are tempered by sober contemplation of economic issues such as jobs and a level playing field for working Americans.
Warren has released a new campaign ad touting an “Economic Patriotism” platform that promises the creation of a new federal agency “to defend and create American jobs.” Sanders recently stated that “of course” he would use tariffs as president to defend American manufacturing, while at the same time hitting out against what he termed President Trump’s “totally irrational” impulsiveness on using the trade tool.
While both major Dem contenders are obviously trying to steal Trump’s thunder by stepping onto ground he has long made his, the higher point for the moment is that leading 2020 Dems are finally talking about the things that matter to the American people. Nothing, not even Gillibrand’s empty posturing, is more cringe-inducing to watch than an aged Bernie Sanders straining to denounce Trump as a “racist,” a “white supremacist,” and a “hate-monger.” It is a terrible look for him that knocks him down to the Beto O’Booker level of intellectual discourse. Similarly, every time Warren wades into the identity politics briar patch that is the heart and soul of modern progressive politics, she comes away cut up and scarred by the folly of her faux Native American past. Do these two leading Dems have advisers at all who are able to tell them this?
A move toward seriousness also blunts ersatz front-runner Joe Biden’s entire reason for existence. The machine politics dinosaur has absolutely nothing to run on but his alleged “electability” due to a supposed ability to appeal to mainstream voters. But Biden is the very face of a brand of politics that red and blue voters alike are eager to put behind them forever. He reeks of networked establishmentarianism in an era clamoring for change. The more gravitas Warren and Sanders display, the quicker this fading relic will disappear.
Perhaps the two candidates most hurt by a move away from the theater of the absurd would be Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Both of these would-be (but not quite) top-tier candidates make their political hay on identity politics, while at the same time claiming to be somehow above the very things they are espousing. Harris’ “tough prosecutor” role is hampered by progressive anger at perceived racial bias in the criminal justice system. Yet Harris deliberately fans the flames of racial grievance every chance she gets, positioning herself as judge and juror of the inherent racism of fellow Dem Biden (not guilty, but …) and President Trump (very, very guilty). Having to limit her campaign to a discussion of issues of common interest to all Americans would leave he rudderless.
Buttigieg as well has spent his entire time as a candidate carving out a role for himself as Nice Guy Midwestern Progressive. He wants to be the glue that fuses heartland sensibilities with Brooklyn values. Without identity politics being pushed to the forefront, the entire focus of his rather unimaginative campaign strategy immediately begins to unravel.
Fall is just around the corner. It is far past time for Democrats to jettison the emotional silliness of their PC progressive base and offer the American people a weighty alternative to incumbent president Trump. The best way they can begin to do this is to drop the dead weight that drove their soulless summer reality TV programming to such comical and unappealing lows.